Four women walked quietly from the cabin tucked in the woods at Temenos Retreat Center; one of many retreats this group had taken together over twenty years. We carried shawls, water and layers of clothing, as the chill of mid spring was in the air, even as the sun poked through budding leaves. We had decided to find our way to the screen house, following an obscure little path that looked more like a deer trail than one that led to this treasure of a building.
Entering, we removed shoes, opened trunks that sat inside, pulled out throw rugs and cushions and set up our altar in the center of the room. In silence we lighted the central candle and wrapped ourselves in the warmth of our shawls and blankets, settling in for meditation.
As we sat in contemplation, the sounds of the forest were alive around us. Birds chirped, squirrels chattered and small rustles of leaves alerted us to the vibrancy of this space. Small animals scavenged in the detritus looking for breakfast just a few feet from where we sat. Calls went out, back and forth, saying worms here, seeds there, time to ruffle those wings. We had stepped into the daily routine of the local flora and fauna.
With an unspoken word, one by one the four of us stood and began to sing. We joined voices in harmony, singing our hearts out, sometimes in rounds, sometimes as one. Our feet moved with the rhythm of our music as it poured from our throats, singing, dancing, celebrating life. We pounded the floor beneath us, raising arms to the sky, stretching out in song; songs of prayer, songs of joy and songs from our souls. We sang and danced until each of us were spent.
Sitting again, the forest was still. Not a sound came from the winged ones, nor from scurrying feet rustling leaves. It was as if all the creatures had stopped to hear our praise in celebration, listening to four women sing and dance to our heart's content.
Then up from the forest rose voices, trilling songs from tiny breasts, singing their hearts out, sharing their concert with us. Enthralled we listened, an appreciative audience as they entertained us, until they were spent. Just as suddenly as if on cue, the voices quieted and the scurrying, scratching and daily business of the forest began again. With thanks and leaving no trace, we filed silently out and down the path, thankful for each breath.
In grateful memory of Diane, who died from cancer several years ago.